Enhance Your Workouts With Tempo Training

Man performing tempo training

(You can download the workout plan at the bottom of this article.)

What is Tempo Training?

Tempo training is about slowing down, speeding up or pausing certain parts of an exercise movement. With every exercise you do, each rep can be broken down into four movements. The eccentric portion, concentric portion and the isometric portion (the isometric portions are the ones at the top and one at the bottom of the lift). With tempo training, you will assign each portion of the lift a number, this number will correspond to how long that portion of the lift will take.

By following this training technique, each rep will take you longer, which increases the time under tension. For example, lets say you bench press 100kgs for 8 reps, each rep takes you 2 seconds to complete, the total time under tension would be 16 seconds to complete all 8 reps. Now if you were to use a tempo training method, and take 3 seconds to lower the bar to your chest, then pause for 1 second, then push the bar back up as fast as you can, each rep would take around 4 seconds, increasing the time under tension to 32 seconds if you were to complete all 8 reps.

As the time under tension increases, the exercise will become a lot harder, so you will probably have to use a lower weight or do less reps to complete the exercise.

Tempo training is also an excellent way of progressing. For example, if you bench 100kgs for 8 reps, but with the tempo method only manage 5 or 6 reps on your first attempt, you should quickly notice that over time you will get back to 8 reps while still using the tempo method, this is a sign that you are getting stronger.

Tempo Training for Muscle Mass

As mentioned earlier, tempo training is about time under tension (TUT). Depending on your goal the optimal TUT will differ. For example, if your goal is fat loss, your TUT will be different to if your goal is muscle growth or strength.

You will assign 4 numbers for the exercise. For example, 4030.

  • The first Number is the eccentric (lowering) portion of the exercise. (Lowering the bar during a bench press, squatting down etc...)

  • The second number is the pause at the end of the eccentric portion. (After you have lowered the bar to your chest on the bench press and the bar is touching your chest)

  • The third number is the concentric portion. (Pushing the weight back up)

  • The fourth number is the pause at the top of the movement. (For example,with bench press, holding the bar above you and getting ready to lower it to your chest)

Going by the number mention above, 4030. This would mean you take 4 seconds on the eccentric portion of the movement, the second number is 0 which means there is no pause at the bottom of the movement, the number 3 means you should take 3 seconds to push the weight back up, and then immediately continue onto the next rep as the last number is 0 so there is no pause at the top of the movement.

For muscle growth the optimal TUT is between 30 and 40 seconds. For example, you are doing a set of squats for 6 reps, your aim would be to complete each rep in around 6 seconds, which would increase the TUT for the set to around 36 seconds. A good tempo to achieve this would be 4020. Everyone is different, and a tempo that works well for someone else, may not work as well for you. It is best to experiment with different tempos to find what works for you.

Not every exercise you do in a workout needs to involve tempo training. For example, with a leg workout where you do 4 different exercises, you can use tempo training for the squats, and do the other exercises as you normally would have.

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